Tactics to Parent Yourself

Bad parenting, Part III by Sarah G
Bad parenting, Part III by Sarah G

During tennis lesson last week, I watched as our four year old clamored to gather balls his classmates had gotten to first. He grew increasingly upset, as one ball after another was swiped away from him. Meanwhile, there were more balls coming across the net from the pair who were practicing their backhand.

I called him over (though the coach takes offense to parental direction during class).

“Don’t look at the balls on the floor,” I whispered. I turned his head from the floor to the other side of the net. “Look for the next ball. No one is going after that one.”

His countenance brightened and he burst away, in pursuit of the new source.

We have a sequence of phrases I try to rehearse with him every now and then. The starter phrase is “I love you” because several years ago in one of our long car rides around the city, when I said “I love you,” he surprised me by responding with “I love you too.” Like a call and response in a religious service, we trade phrases in a sequence that remind us of what’s important.

The lesson from tennis class is the latest addition:

“We don’t look at balls on the floor.” (Me)

“We look for the next ball.” (Him)

I realize as we are tossing these lines back and forth I’m teaching him. As importantly, I’m reminding myself of those values I hold dear.

No matter what type of childhood you had, the odds are high that you also have a complaint about it. The stigma of trials are obvious. Yet my friends with well off parents also murmur that they too were at a disadvantage (too sheltered to be prepared for the disappointment of adulthood).

Becoming a parent is an interesting rhetorical move. Yes, you see glimpses of your parents and often not their best traits.

But also you get a chance to teach yourself as you’re teaching your child.

One afternoon I was home, the boys playing downstairs, and I threw myself on the bed in shuddering sobs. I crawled under the covers, like a tantrum spent toddler, and took a nap. I awoke refreshed. Not much else had changed but perhaps the most essential thing: my perspective.

Think what better people we could be if we saw everyone with the compassionate we give to children.


What to Do with Rejection

I’m so proud of our interior designer turned gender studies undergrad researcher!

A photo posted by Mo Phongsavan (@moha_doha) on

You know me: I have ideas. Lots of ideas.  There’s always something I am willing or wanting to try, from ideas for books to research projects, to teaching techniques, the world seems full of possibility.

Two years ago we put in a research proposal to track the changes in marriage practices in Qatari society. The special emphasis was on women and education. Were educated women any different from their counterparts? Were the daughters of today any different from their mothers or grand daughters?

The grant was declined but the three of us, a colleague, a enterprising student research assistant, and myself knew our project was interesting. We believed in what we were doing and so we decided to go ahead. 8 months later, we had surveyed 355 female Qataris and interviewed 150 in focus groups. I presented some of our early findings at a conference in November, proud to be selected from among hundreds of submissions.

Today we were awarded the Student/Early Career Researcher Paper Prize at the WAPOR Doha Regional Conference at Qatar University!

Chocolates and a little applause will go a long way.

Whatever your idea or dream: see if there is a workaround. There usually is, though it may require sacrifice to see through. What would you do if there weren’t any obstacles?

How to Rock Being a University Student

Photo by Kevin Dooley
Photo by Kevin Dooley

August means the first day of university for many students, at least in North America. You could be attending for the first time, starting your senior year, or coming back as a non-traditional student.

The rules for success are the same: show up. That’s right – Woody Allen is credited with the saying “80% of life is about showing up.”

That means be on time to class; turn in your assignments when they’re due; come to your professors’ office hours with questions.

That is what it takes to be successful as a student. Show up, again and again, do the work, engage in class. You think I’m down playing it but trust me.

This advice comes to you after teaching and working for 14 years on at 9 different university campuses.

The hardest lessons in life are deceptively simple.

What advice do you have for university students? Or what do you wish you had known on your first week?